Sunday, February 26, 2012

... on 'things'.

I've been wondering about something lately. I've been busy helping C build our house for us. I've insulated and painted and sanded and occasionally flaked out in the heat, but it all seems very worthwhile because I'm helping to make something practical, something useful - somewhere to live!

But, as I've been insulating and painting and sanding, sometimes I've caught myself wishing that I was sitting down to finish off a batch of cast plaster letters, or making a new mould from Pinkysil, or carving a swirly ampersand, or peeling the bark off a dry branch to make a wall hanging from some speckled bird's eggs. But because I'm busy being practical, I can't quite do any of that stuff right at the moment, and so I keep on thinking. I wonder about these things that I love to make - they have no purpose other than to decorate, to be pretty. I think about my current house, and about the things that make it 'mine', and yes, it's full of ornamentation. (This usually ignites a flurry of horror about just how I'll go when it comes to combining C's and my household items when we move in together in a month or so. Will he draw the line when it comes to my mouldy old handle-less aluminium teapot that I pulled out of an old campsite, and filled with dried seaweed stems from a beach at Coff's Harbour? Eeek!) But to me, these are the things that help make my home feel like mine, and although I may possibly have a bit too much, I can't imagine having it any other way.

So, as I pour out yet more white enamel paint into the tray, my thinking continues. What is it going to be like when I move my 'things' from my old (beloved) home into this new, brand-spanking one? Will there be a place for my blue-spotted ceramic bowl full of pebbles I've collected on various trips? That little shell-and-bead wall hanging that I made one summer holiday - will there be a spot for it, and what happens to it if there's just not? What will C think as I gaily unearth old treasures from boxes (and I know I have several that will come to light when I move) and start cluttering up our house with them?

I was at Harvey Norman recently and I saw a couple buying a 'painting'. I say 'painting' because it was the sort of mass-produced thing that has been digitally printed on canvas and then someone has brushed over it with varnish to give it some texture, to make it look real. I shudder. I mean - a lot of people must buy stuff like this to fill their homes and feel proud of it, but it's certainly not something I would ever want. So, in a time when you can buy 'art' in Harvey Norman and when much of the 'pretty' things you see in the shops have been made en masse in China, I feel GOOD when I think about my messy home filled with handmade bits and pieces, and old junk I've pulled out of the bushes! I'll let you know how I go when it comes to editing down when I move (C has said "I like your style, but I don't want all of it!") but for now I'm going to enjoy the notion that there must be other people in the world who like handmade things that have no purpose other than to help make someone's home 'theirs'.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

... on eggs. Lots and lots of eggs!

Well, they're ready! I've been making these eggs since the start of the year, and they're finally ready. I think I kept getting distracted by other new things - and in the end I was getting flustered because I had so many new things on the go and none of them were nearing finishment!
I've found a new use for my lovely old Airspeed fan. It goes really well, by the way, even though it makes a sound like a jet engine when it's on. I have to make sure everything's weighed down - it's been known to blow books off the table.

I've become a dab hand at this egg-speckling business - it's quite laborious, and I can only manage about three at a time before my thumbs give out! First I use a dry brush to flick on the fine specks, then go over again with a larger brush to be-blotch. Finished!

I've just spent the morning threading this delicious chocolatey ribbon through their loops, and taking photographs for some Etsy listings.

Now I'm feeling quite keen on the idea of making some blue-ish eggs. I also have a couple of little wall-hangings on the go - look out for them soon!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

... on painting eggs.

Real quail egg.

Cast plaster quail egg, painted and be-speckled.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

... on nests.

I've been feeling inspired by all things eggs and nests lately. It could be that watching my Pekin bantam hen, Custard, hatch out all five of her eggs has played a part. Also, I seem to be finding nests. There's three sitting on top of my piano at the moment!
I've found two micky's nests. These little grey birds are prolific here in Brisbane and live in vast happy noisy families, with lots of birds (not only the parents) tending the nest. After the chicks have fledged they often tear apart the nest and use the materials to build another somewhere else.
I love the way they line the nest using something soft. I think this is building insulation.
This one has used the swirly tendrils from a passionfruit vine - how delightful!
This lovely green lichen and spiderweb nest came from up in the mountains when we went to visit friends in the new year. C and I went for an early morning walk and it had fallen to the ground... empty, thank goodness. 
So, I've begun nesting too. I've been having such fun with my cast plaster quail eggs, and making a nest to put some in is the natural thing to do, right?
I've so loved making this nest. The main part is made from old copper wire that was hanging down from some disused telephone poles - I remember my brother coming home with the vast heavy roll of it when we were kids. I love how it's starting to oxidise, and I think it'll go completely green in the long term unless it's brushed off. The shiny bright wire is from a spool I bought at a flea market. I don't know what type of metal it is but it's never tarnished, and I've had it for years. The eggs - well, they're made from my favourite Gedeo Resin Plaster. Hello bird's nest!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

... on ampersand fun.

Over the past few weeks I've been having a bit of fun with a new ampersand project. Recently, on one stupidly hot and humid Brisbane day, I exiled myself to my Ma's air conditioning and spent a whole afternoon carving a new ampersand.
Here's how I carve something. I trace a template onto an ordinary piece of plasterboard sheeting, the sort that you use to line the walls of your home. I get busy with a scalpel and hey presto! A big mess!
I wanted this ampersand to be able to stand up by itself, so I carved two and glued them together, and then plastered over the join. 
I really like the swirly-curliness of this ampersand. I like how you can see the definite 'E' and 'T' that make up the form of it ('et' meaning 'and' in french, and I don't know why I assume this but I do... is that why ampersands sometimes say 'et'? Other times they're more like a plus sign, or a squiggle.) and that  it says 'et' in a really Austin Powers kind of way!

When it wasn't quite so hot, I got out the Pinkysil and made a mould. It was a bit of a close call though - it was still quite warm, and the silicone had started to go 'off' (or set) before I'd even finished mixing the two parts. Eeek!

It turned out okay though. I always feel quite nervous as I watch something I've spent hours carving disappear under the Pinkysil, because I know that once the silicone has set and I try to remove the original from the mould, I'll have to break it into a thousand pieces to get it out. But - then the fun starts... will the cast result be as nice as the original?
Hurrah! Yes - I don't miss the original one bit! In fact, I really like the bulk and heaviness of the cast result - the Gedeo Resin Plaster that I use is a superfine, weighty material, quite unlike the lightness of regular Plaster of Paris. I've made a couple of these now, and having had some practice at the finishing (they need quite a lot of hand sanding) I'm feeling that they're ready for my Etsy store. And guess what? They DO stand up by themselves!

Friday, February 3, 2012

... on cat things.

I've been feeling rather catless of late. It's been some time since my lovely Kubrick used up the last of her nine lives, and I had resolved not to get another cat until I was living in a house suitable for keeping a cat inside. I've shared a house with an outdoor cat ever since I can remember, and although I did love that grassy smell that their fur takes on from being outside, I certainly didn't like the volume of birds and reptiles and little creatures that were brought into the house as a result. On one memorable occasion Kubrick strutted proudly into the room with a furious tree snake wrapped tightly around her head!

Now that things are moving along promisingly in the inside-cat-friendly department, I'm finding that my thoughts have been turning catwards. Initially-random browsing on Etsy has taken on a decidedly feline theme, and as a result, recently something lovely appeared at my door.

Images courtesy 
This lovely grey cat bed was hand felted in Lithuania by VaivaNat, who makes all sorts of beautiful things from felt, including brooches and scarves and incredible animal-eared hats. I wished that she could have included her cat in with the parcel - the cat is called Maia, by the way.

It's simply a beautifully made thing, and I can thoroughly recommend. You might like to visit Vaiva's shop. There are some lovely photos of her in action at her felting studio here.


There was a Featured Seller on Etsy who really caught my eye a few weeks ago. Laura at le animalĂ© makes miniature animal totems, jewellery and moleskine notebooks. You can also send her photographs of your pet and she will sculpt you a custom animal... which I did. I sent her some shots of Kubrick, we exchanged some emails discussing a potential pose, and I've been waiting with bated breath ever since.

Then yesterday, look what appeared on Laura's blog.
Images courtesy
I have to say, as soon as I scrolled down and saw that little wave in the tail, I knew that Laura had done a fabulous job. She has captured the essence of Kubrick perfectly! One of the things that I miss the most about Kuber was the way she would greet me when I came home. As soon as she heard me she would come out from whatever bush she'd been napping under, and walk towards me with her tail held high, the tip waving slightly from side to side with each step. She would delicately pick her way through the long grass and miaow every now and then. So lovely to come home to!

Now, I'll have this beautiful thing to remind me. The parcel hasn't arrived yet but I know I'm going to be delighted!